IT LOOKS LIKE Ocean County dodged a bullet, thanks in part to the efforts of US Representatives Chris Smith, Tom MacArthur and Frank LoBiondo, all R-NJ.
“Recent press reports say that the Department of the Interior is no longer interested in pursuing off-shore drilling off of Southern New Jersey,” said Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little.
Little said the Congressmen met recently with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who indicated that drilling at the Jersey Shore is no longer a priority.
According to published reports, the delegation was confident that New Jersey would be removed from the list of potential drilling sites, with Smith going as far as to say, “I think for all practical purposes we won’t be seeing oil drilling off the coast of New Jersey.”
The Freeholders praised the Congressmen for their willingness to fight for the Shore.
“There is no need to tell you about the environmental and economic benefits of the coastline,” the Freeholders said in a letter to each representative. “Tourism is an annual $4.6 billion industry in Ocean County alone. Our sandy beaches and pristine waterways are the reason so many people choose to both visit and live in Ocean County. Protecting these resources has always been a priority of our county government, as we know it has been a priority of yours as well.”
Little said that while he understands the importance of finding new sources of oil and natural gas, the coast off New Jersey is the wrong place to look.
“This is an environmentally sensitive area that has long faced threats from New York City and Northern New Jersey,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to stop ocean dumping and to keep our waters clean. Ocean drilling would be a step in the wrong direction.”
Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, liaison to tourism, said visitors and residents alike value the coast.
“Bottom line is it needs to be protected. Ocean County depends on the Ocean. I commend our Congressmen for joining us and fighting this battle,” Vicari said.
Little said he was confident that the county’s Congressional Delegation would continue to monitor the situation and take whatever action is necessary should calls for offshore drilling resurface.